n African Journal for Physical Health Education, Recreation and Dance - Challenges in combating childhood obesity in black township schools of South Africa and quality of life - : health and quality of life

Supplement 2
  • ISSN : 1117-4315


Childhood obesity in South Africa has become a public health problem. Statistics from a recent survey reported that 14% of children were overweight or obese. The purpose of this study was to determine overweight and obesity prevalence among 10 to 17 year-old learners and also describe environmental factors within schools that influence the development of the health behaviours of the learners. This was a cross-sectional study and data were collected through interviewer-administered questionnaires. In addition, observations of the school environment were carried out to identify promoters and inhibitors of physical activity and healthy eating practices. Data were analysed using SPSS (version 18.0). Observations of the school environment were interpreted from a checklist used during data collection. Dietary data were manually coded and quantified, and analysed using Foodfinder, a computer programme of the Medical Research Council South Africa. A total of 211 learners participated in the study. The number of overweight (15.4%) and obese (20%) females in the study exceeded the number of overweight (6.2%) and obese (6.2%) males. Overweight and obesity increased with age and was highest in those 13 to 15 years. When the age group, education level or the number of people living together in the household increased, the proportion of overweight and obese learners increased and this was statistically significant. This study shows that childhood obesity is becoming a problem in disadvantaged communities and highlights some of the challenges in reducing childhood obesity in poorly-resourced school settings.

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